for this game

U.S., Brazil renew rivalry in WWC quarters

Jul 10, 2011 - 12:14 AM Dresden, Germany (Sports Network) - The United States and Brazil clash Sunday, and the winner will become the overwhelming favorite to win the Women's World Cup.

But as Germany learned Saturday, it's not easy wearing the bull's-eye. Germany was shocked by Japan, 1-0, in extra time to eliminate the two-time defending champion.

With the pre-tournament favorite eliminated in host Germany, the squad that is able to escape the last quarterfinal will take over the favorites role.

For the U.S., that would mean a previous defeat to Sweden in group play was no longer a factor - although the Swedes may be later in the tournament - and the country's record third title would be within reach.

Should Brazil win, it would guarantee a new winner of the event. The U.S. and Germany have each won two World Cups, and Norway has one. Norway failed to get to the knockout round.

The first step after Sunday is a semifinal against France, which edged England on penalties, 4-3, following a 1-1 draw to reach the semis for the first time.

But Brazil and the United States are not foolish enough to overlook the match Sunday, and for the Americans, it's a chance to earn some redemption from four years ago when it lost in the semifinals to the Brazilians.

Brazil defeated the U.S., 4-0, four in China in the semifinals of the 2007 Cup and then lost to Germany in the final. Brazil and the U.S. met again in China in 2008 in the Olympic final, and the U.S. won, but the Cup matters more.

The U.S. will be trying to rebound from a 2-1 loss to Sweden in the last round of group play at Dresden's Rudolf-Harbig Stadium. It was the first defeat ever in group play for the U.S., ending a 17-game unbeaten streak all-time.

The two times the U.S. won the World Cup, in 1991 and 1999, it did not drop a group match.

"I really want us to embrace the pressure. I think we'll get stronger and it will be inspiring to play against Brazil," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said.

"What we will talk about from now on is playing in the final. In order to play in the final we need to step up and be sharper with our chances. We start with Brazil. That will motivate the players more and this is a big chance."

U.S. goalie Hope Solo, who was benched four years ago for the Brazil semi, and later spoke out against former coach Greg Ryan, will have her hands full with Brazil.

Marta, the reigning five-time world player of the year, scored twice against the U.S. four years ago and Cristiane added another. Those two, along with the other talented Brazilians, will definitely test Solo on Sunday.

But the United States players are confident, and defender Stephanie Cox said "we'll be up to the task."

Sundhage has tinkered with her lineup a few times in Germany so far, but time will tell if she makes any more changes for Brazil.

No matter what Brazilian coach Kleiton Lima does with his lineup, there is no doubt Marta will start and be a factor. She has two goals and two assists in the tournament, and is just two goals from the all-time World Cup record.

Germany's Birgit Prinz, who played her last game Saturday, finished with 14 in her storied career spanning five Cups - although she didn't score this year.

Brazil's questions remain in defense, where Lima uses a three-woman back line, but the team has not allowed a goal in three games. Brazil defeated Australia 1-0, and then Norway and Equatorial Guinea both 3-0.

"Overall, I don't think we're making the most of our technical ability yet," Lima said, "but our defense is 100 percent solid. Some people are saying the way we defend is out of date, but we're solid, we keep it tight, and we have players and strikers who are fantastic on the break.

"Marta is so obviously focused on Brazil winning this World Cup."

For the U.S. to win the World Cup, it will obviously have to focus on Marta.